American Airlines inducts first flight attendant with special needs & terminal illness

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Saturday morning, a Midlands teenager enjoyed the birthday party of a lifetime all thanks to American Airlines.

Just this morning they inducted their first flight attendant with special needs and a terminal illness, helping the young woman fulfill a dream she never thought she’d live to see.

Deanna Miller Berry said the airport birthday party was, “a dream come true” for her 17-year-old daughter, Shantell “Princess” Pooser.

Berry describes her daughter as “beyond what someone would call a bubbly person.” She said, “Her smile, her vibrant personality, the way she shimmies” are just some of the characteristics people love about her.

Many would say Princess is the life of the party, despite suffering from a terminal illness. She’s battling a series of airway defects.

“They’re called laryngomalacia, tracheomalacia, and tracheobronchial malacia,” Berry said.

When her condition took a turn for the worse a few years ago, Princess and her mother began flying back-and-forth to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“So far, we’ve been on over 57. That’s including the connecting flights, as well, too,” she said.

Along the way, Princess discovered a new passion.

“She saw the flight attendant and she was like, ‘Mommy, I want to be a flight attendant.”

A pilot with American Airlines found out and set out to make that dream a reality.

Equipped with a uniform and a plane filled with family and friends, Princess was ready for her first day on the job, Saturday.

Several people joined in the celebration, including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. One of the pilots even entertained the crowd by playing the piano as they waited to board the plane.

A much-needed, fun-filled day, said Berry.

“After the newest, recent scans, they were so scary to the point now where the doctors in Cincinnati say there’s nothing more that they can do for her. So, you just figure what can you do to make a difference.”

Her mom says Princess’ airways are now more than 87% obstructed. They’ll be flying back to Cincinnati later this month. Already, Princess has outlived many doctors’ expectations, and she will continue to celebrate each birthday as she defies the odds.

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